As a result of the economic downtown, financially pressed people are representing themselves more and more in court, reports the New York Times. The trend is clogging courthouses already facing their own budget woes as clerks spend more time helping people unfamiliar with forms, filings and fees. Judges complain that people miss deadlines, fail to bring the right documents or evidence and are simply unprepared for legal proceedings. Such mistakes make it more likely they will fare poorly – no matter the merit of their cases.
Reliable numbers for people representing themselves in noncriminal cases are hard to come by. Preliminary reports in California, where the total number of nonfamily civil suits for more than $25,000 declined by 8 percent last year, the portion of plaintiffs without a lawyer rose by 22 percent, while defendants representing themselves rose by 36 percent, according to Ronald M. George, the chief justice of California's Supreme Court. Even though the number of disputes may be on the rise in the economic downturn as people clash with their landlords, creditors and others, Judge George perceives a reluctance to go to court because of the expense.